The Liberty Party

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The Liberty Party was the first antislavery party. Formed at a national convention in Albany, New York, in April 1840, the party sought to achieve abolitionist goals through political means. Its first presidential candidate was a former Alabama slave holder, James G. Birney. The party drew a scant 7,000 votes nationally in that election, a figure that increased to approximately 62,000 in 1844.

Although numerically small, the Liberty Party exerted considerable influence in a number of northern states, and some historians attribute Henry Clay's loss of the presidency in 1844 to the Liberty Party, which took Whig votes away from Clay in New York State. In 1848, with the rise of northern concern about the expansion of slavery in the territories, most Liberty Party members joined the more moderate Free Soil Party, which appealed primarily to northern fears about the expansion of slavery.

Bibliography: Stewart, Holy Warriors, pp. 95-123.